Rating:  G, not to worry, pet

Feedback:  If you like it, thanks.

Spoilers:  If you've seen "Out of My Mind" in season 5, nothing will surprise you.

Distribution: Here.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  Joyce is a lady in distress.  Her knight in shining armor just happens to be armed with a plunger.

Author's Note:  Let's say this takes place late season 4; we'll just assume Spike had his little revelation a bit earlier.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

The Plumber's Friend

It had been a typical day for the Scoobies:  battling a creature from the darkest realms of imagination, averting yet another apocalypse, and ordering out for Chinese.  Xander slumped on Giles's couch next to Anya, utterly exhausted.  Willow was doggedly typing at her laptop, updating her journals by adding tonight's supernatural activities.  Her eyes were starting to close no matter how hard she fought them.  Buffy had her feet up on the coffee table, rubbing her sore soles.  She should have known better than to wear three-inch stiletto heels in battle.  Giles himself was puttering around the kitchen, trying to figure out whether French roast coffee or hazelnut cappuccino would best complement egg rolls.  The only one of the group who looked more than half alive was Spike – which was funny because he was actually dead.  He'd managed to miss the earlier activities (aside from the Chinese take out) since, most unusually, their latest nemesis had chosen to attack during daylight.

"What a sorry lot you are!  And to think that this group of slug-a-beds kept me from putting this stupid town under my heel.  I am deeply ashamed," he said sarcastically.

"Shut up," was Xander's laconic reply.  He actually had a brilliantly witty comeback dancing on the tip of his tongue, but the effort of forming words was just too draining at the moment.

Giles came out of the kitchen carrying several mugs of steaming hot chocolate.  Although he hated to admit it, nuking some milk and pouring powdered cocoa was about all he was up to.  The coffee maker was on the fritz, and the cappuccino machine ranked second to an actual computer in his list of intimidating technological objects.

"Giles, have I told you lately how incredibly wonderful you are?" Buffy enthused as she grasped one of the mugs of chocolaty goodness.

He smiled with satisfaction as he continued to dole out the cocoa, finally taking the last one himself and plopping contentedly in one of the overstuffed chairs.

"Hey, you forgot someone, mate."

"Spike, it would be relatively impossible for me to forget that there is a very rude demon seated in my living room.  You didn't do anything to deserve hot chocolate."

"Not my bloody fault I couldn't do anything.  What you want me to do, get myself incinerated?"

"Oh, now that would be dreadful.  No, wait.  It wouldn't," the former librarian deadpanned.

"Fine.  I'll get up and get my own," he said as he started to rise.

"Waste of time.  All gone.  Pity."  Giles was enjoying getting a bit of his own back.  Spike had been blasting the most repellent music he had ever heard from his stereo system for the last few days.  Eventually he'd threatened Spike with a 24-hour marathon of Enya.  That seemed to do the trick.

Spike had been about to start swearing fluently when the phone rang.  Giles reached over and answered.

"Hello?  Yes, she is.  Just a moment," he said as he handed Buffy the phone.  "It's your mother."

"Hi, mom.  What's up?"  A fairly long silence ensued as Buffy's face slowly took on a look of intense disgust.  "Eww, gross!  Hang on a minute."

Buffy put down the receiver and slowly surveyed the room.  Then, apparently coming to a decision, she put the phone back to her ear.

"Don't worry about a thing.  Help is on the way.  I'll send someone right over.  'Bye."

"Something wrong, Buffy?" Willow asked in a concerned voice.

"The sink in the downstairs bathroom won't drain.  I unclogged it last year and the biggest, nastiest wad of hairy gunk came flying out," she said shivering in distaste and turning a very vivid shade of green.

"That is a disgusting picture," Anya said unenthusiastically.  "Now I'm not only tired, I'm nauseous."

"Let me get this straight.  You routinely slay big, ugly, puss-dripping demons, but you go all delicate about drain clogs?" the vampire asked in amusement.

"Button it or I ask Giles to play his extensive collection of Yanni."

"I'm quiet."

"You're going to be quieter.  In fact, you're going to be gone."

"Really?  And just where am I headed, slayer?"

"My mom's.  You get to be a plumber for tonight."

"Oh no, I'm…"

"Oh yes, you are.  Or I stake you."  Something about her tone of voice told him that she was actually exasperated enough to do it.  Experience had taught him never to cross a woman with sore feet.

He gave her a sullen look and headed out the door.

"Buffy," Giles said as the front door slammed shut, "I don't own anything by Yanni.  I do have some taste."

"I know that.  But let's not tell Spike."

He smiled.  "Agreed."

About fifteen minutes later Spike rang the Summers's doorbell.  He was carrying what appeared to be a bottle in a brown paper bag.  Joyce answered the door with a surprised look on her face.

"Evening, Mrs. Summers.  Understand you have a clogged drain."

"Umm, yes.  Buffy sent you?"

"Yup.  Her little group of friends are all worn out from earlier goings-on, so I was elected for the job."

"Oh," she said uncertainly, trying to remember exactly where she kept the ax these days.  "Well, come on in."

"Thank you."  He crossed the threshold with a wry smile.  He'd never actually disliked Buffy's mother.  In fact, he thought she was a remarkably pleasant person.  He never failed to be polite to her.

"It's just this way," she offered as she showed him into the powder room, which Spike couldn't help thinking looked awfully, well, pink. 

"Let's see what the damage is," he remarked as he turned on the tap and put the bag down on the vanity.  The water immediately pooled in the sink, refusing to go down the drain at all.  It did not look good.  "You got a plunger?"

"I think so.  Just a second."  Joyce dashed down the basement steps and began rummaging through a collection of tools her ex-husband had left.  She found the plunger.  She also found the ax.  Hesitating a moment, she decided to leave the lethal-looking implement where it was and returned up the stairs with the plunger.

"Here you are," she said brightly as she handed it to him.

"Thank you," he replied as he grabbed the handle, hung his leather duster on the hook behind the bathroom door, and began to work on the sink.  Joyce decided to leave the room.  Soon, she heard loud squelching noises interrupted occasionally by some fairly scaled-down swearing.  Spike somehow didn't feel comfortable using foul language in front of Mrs. Summers, even if she wasn't right in the same room with him, but just now he was very tempted.   Even with his supernatural strength, the drain wouldn't come unblocked.  Whatever was causing the problem was stuck in there tight.

"Eh, Mrs. Summers, do you happen to have a wrench?" he asked as he emerged from the powder room.  He was dripping wet.

"Sure," she said as she headed for the basement once more.  She quickly returned with the wrench.  "Still stuck, huh?"

"Yeah.  Going to have to try opening the trap under the sink.  Oh, and I'll need a bucket, please."

Joyce went into the kitchen to get the pail she used for mopping the floor.  "That sink has always been a problem.  I should probably just call a plumber.  You don't have to keep trying."

"S'alright.  It's become a point of honor now; I refuse to be bested by a bathroom fixture."

Joyce couldn't help laughing a bit at that.  She wasn't sure why, but Spike had never really frightened her all that much.  Most of the time he seemed like such a nice young man.  Then she reminded herself that he was neither nice, nor young, nor technically a man.  He was an evil, century-old demon.  Still, he seemed awfully pleasant.

Spike was lying on his stomach under the sink at this point, wrestling with the trap.  Finally it came loose.  It was just as he'd thought.  There was a regular rat's nest of hair stuck in the pipe.  Can't help siding with Buffy on this one, he thought.  This is pretty disgusting.  Making a face, he started to clean out the block with his fingers, slopping the sodden mess into the bucket.  When he'd cleaned out as much of the problem as he could reach, he closed the trap and stood up, abruptly hitting his head on the underside of the sink, letting out a yelp as he did so.  Joyce re-entered the room, a concerned look on her face.

"Are you alright?" she asked kindly.

"Yeah, fine.  Just being an idiot.  Let's try the tap and see if it works now.  I fished out enough hair from that pipe to make a toupee."

Unfortunately, the water in the sink only trickled down in the slowest of drips.  Joyce noticed the disappointed look on the vampire's face.

"That's okay.  You don't have to do anymore.  I'll just give the plumber a call tomorrow and…"

"No.  I'll not have you calling some bloke who can't even keep his pants up properly to fix this drain for a criminal charge by the hour.  I've seen their rates these days.  I was never quite that evil," he said with a grin.

Joyce rolled her eyes in an amused expression that reminded Spike of Buffy in a surprisingly enjoyable way.  "So, you've tried the plunger and the trap.  What's next?"

"This," he said, grabbing the bag off the counter. 

"How will you getting drunk clear the sink?"  she asked, giving him a look that said plainly she thought he'd gone crazy.

Spike really laughed at this.  "Even I don't drink stuff this strong," he replied as he took a bottle of Draino out of the bag.  He'd picked it up on his way over, just in case.  Joyce began to laugh, too.

"I couldn't use it earlier since nothing was going down the drain at all, but now that we've got a bit of a drip, we can give it a shot."  With that, he poured the contents down the sink slowly, careful not to damage the enamel.  "Might be that the problem is further down the pipe than I can reach.  Have to let it set for at least an hour, though."

"Well, come out to the kitchen for awhile.  I'll make some hot chocolate."

The irony was not lost on him.  Within a few minutes, he and Joyce were settled at the kitchen table, steaming mugs of frothy cocoa in hand.

"Oh wait," she said smilingly.  "Almost forgot."  She went to the cupboard and took out a bag of mini-marshmallows.  "These are your favorite, if I remember correctly."

"Thank you," he said appreciatively.  He didn't know what it was about those little white puffs, but they made him feel homey.

For some time they just sat in companionable silence, sipping hot chocolate through a sticky foam of marshmallows.  Eventually, Joyce felt that she needed to break the quiet, though, or he might start to think she was being rude.

"So, how do you like being back in Sunnydale?"

Spike almost choked on his cocoa.  Let's see:  his girlfriend had dumped him for a thing with antlers, he'd been captured by a government agency that had made him as safe as a bunny rabbit (he briefly thought of how horrified Anya would be by that idea), and now he'd fallen so low that Buffy was turning him into Mr. Fix-It.  It just didn't get much worse than that.

"It's okay," he sputtered as he tried to make the beverage go down the right pipe.

"Spike, you're not fooling me, you know.  How did things turn out with your girlfriend Priscilla?"

"Uh, that's Drusilla.  It didn't work out too well.  She… moved on."

"That's too bad.  I'm sorry."  There wasn't a hint of sarcasm in her voice.  She really did feel bad for him.  It must be lonely to spend eternity by yourself, she thought sadly.  "Is there anyone new in your life?"

Spike couldn't repress a little smile.  He'd been head over heels for Buffy for several months now, although of course he'd kept her completely in the dark about it.  It was an utterly impossible situation, and he knew it.  Still, to have her mother asking him about his love life… it was just plain hilarious.

"Not yet.  But there could be, maybe," he said mysteriously. 

Joyce gave a knowing smile.  She'd picked up on the chemistry between her daughter and Spike a long time ago.  Strangely, she didn't really disapprove.

"How about you?  Been keeping busy?"  he asked, trying to think of something fairly normal.

"Oh, as much as I can be.  There's lots of work this time of year at the gallery.  Still, I miss Buffy.  She hasn't been coming by too often lately."  She couldn't help the unhappy note that crept into her words.

"Well, she has had her hands full lately.  Seems like there's a new fiendish plot to end the world at least three times a week.  I'm sure she misses you, too." 

"I suppose so."  She stirred her hot chocolate thoughtfully.

Spike looked at her with a surprising amount of kindness in his eyes.  Mrs. Summers brought back good memories for him, even if they were bittersweet.  When he had been human, he and his mother had been very close.   In fact it was one of the things the others in his social class had held against him.  Even in the nineteenth century it wasn't considered "cool" to be a momma's boy.  But Spike had never given that a second thought.  His father had died when he was very young, and he'd always felt it was his responsibility to care for her.  Even after he had been turned, he hadn't done what Angelus did and killed his remaining family members.  Instead he'd simply chosen to leave, knowing that what he had become would only hurt her.  Still, from time to time an unexplained package would arrive on her doorstep, containing enough money for her to live comfortably and perhaps something pretty that he knew she would fancy.  Of course he'd never told the others about this.  He could just imagine Angelus's face contorted in laughter.  He could also image him killing her to spite him.  As it was, her eventual, natural death had been very hard on him.  He'd never had the chance to say goodbye.

"That Draino should have worked by now," he said in order to keep himself from getting too emotional.  "Let's go see, shall we?"

The two of them crowded into the small powder room and Spike turned on the water.  It went down perfectly.

"Well, that takes care of that.  Thank you so much."

"Don't mention it, Mrs. Summers."  Please don't mention it, he thought.  It'll ruin my reputation worse than the chip. 

He put his coat back on and was just about to leave when the phone rang.

"Just one minute," Joyce called as she hurried to answer it in the next room.

Spike couldn't exactly help overhearing the conversation.

"Buffy!  Hi!…Yes, he showed up.  The sink's working again….  Nope, everything went fine.  He did a wonderful job.  Probably saved me a couple hundred dollars….  He's just about to leave…. Okay, honey.  Spike!" she called.  "Buffy would like to speak to you for a moment."

Reluctantly, he picked up the phone.

"Yeah.  The house is still in one piece, so you don't have to stake me."

"Fine.  I suppose I should thank you.  I wasn't even sure you'd show."

"I'm not one to leave a lady in distress.  By the way," and he lowered his voice so that Joyce, who was in the next room, wouldn't be able to hear him, "you should come out and spend some time with your mum.  She misses you."

This was met with stunned silence on the other end of the line.

"Oh.  Okay.  Could you put her back on the phone a minute?"

He gave the receiver to her.

"Really?  That would be great, sweetheart.  I'll look forward to it…. Yes, see you then…. I love you, too."

She hung up the phone.

"It looks like Buffy and I are going to be having dinner together tomorrow.  What a coincidence."  Her woman's intuition told her Spike had something to do with this.  That, and she'd been listening in on the other phone.

"Good.  I'll be going then."

"Thank you again.  Oh, and by the way," her eyes twinkled mischievously at him, "Buffy may play hard to get with you, but it's only an act.  Give her some time."

"Cor, am I that obvious?"

"Only to a mother," she winked at him.  "Goodnight, Spike."

"Night, mum," he said without thinking.  Then he walked back to Giles's, whistling a tune from his childhood.